GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) - A South Carolina committee passed a bill Tuesday called the “Open Carry with Training" Act, putting the state one step closer to allowing the open carry of guns.
Right now, residents in the Palmetto State can only apply for a concealed weapons permit. Under this new law, people with those permits could carry freely.
The bill would require citizens to complete training to do this.
Proponents of the bill say it’s “common sense" and that 2nd Amendment rights need to be recognized now.
Those against the bill say they are not opposed to the concept of open carrying, but they think there’s too much open to interpretation, and that safety is an issue in the legislation as it is written currently; they say this could lead to problems for law enforcement.
Representative Micah Caskey says he believes it’s time for South Carolina to fully allow rights to its citizens and gun owners which he believes are granted by the Constitution.
“We are one of five states that is not allowed any form of carrying pistols–short guns–so we need to get out of the company of states like New York, Illinois, and California," Caskey, republican cosponsor of the bill from Lexington County, said.
As someone who believes the 2nd Amendment allows for carrying without any sort of license, he calls the current bill a “compromise," and says it adequately addressed to safety concerns.
“You have to have had a background check," Caskey explained when detailing requirements one would need to meet to be allowed to openly carry a weapon. “You have to go through training," he added. "You have to go through firearms proficiency testing as well."
Not all lawmakers share his outlook.
“This bill is going to be very problematic for law-enforcement,“ said Representative Justin Bamberg of Bamberg, Barnwell, and Colleton Counties.
Bamberg is a gun-owning supporter of the 2nd Amendment, whose father, brother, and mother all have careers in law enforcement. His father is the current sheriff of Bamberg County.
“The 2nd Amendment right isn’t complicated,” Bamberg said. “Balancing all of the things we have to consider is."
He says there is too much left unsaid in the bill, and that critical points, like how officers respond to those reaching for their weapons permits near their firearms – or if they even have to ask to see a CWP at all – are not mentioned. In addition, he says there are no guidelines which address large crowds that are carrying.
“Ours has none of that," Bamberg said of the current bill. “It just says ‘insert open carry’ into the CWP statute.”
Bamberg points to other states like North Carolina, where open carry is allowed, but not at large protests or mass gatherings—where things can escalate quickly.
“We would effectively be destroying the law-enforcement use of force matrix in those situations as we know it,” he asserted.
He says that if problems like these are addressed, there’s no reason a bill like this shouldn't pass. But he says that is a big “if.”
“There needs to be some discussion about additional law-enforcement training to prepare them," he said.
Bamberg also believes there is a racial component to this bill. He says he worries about the ability of minorities to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights without getting unjustly profiled.
FOX Carolina reached out to some local law-enforcement agencies to get their thoughts on the current bill. Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright says he is “not opposed“ to legislation that would allow for open carrying, while Greenville County says they don’t comment on pending bills.
The bill now heads to the floor of the House, and if it passes, it will go to the state Senate.
This is a developing story. Stay with FOX Carolina for updates.